Another chapter in the the evils of bought-and-paid-for politics is now playing itself out in Wisconsin – and, indirectly, in Missouri. Union-busting, Tea Partying, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced today that he had raised $4.5 million during the period from December 11 – Jan 17 in his quest to fend off a recall. You might be inclined ask just who is giving Walker all this money. He is clearly not too popular with the citizens of his state since over a million of them were eager to sign a petition for his recall.
And you would be right to ask. As Talking Points Memo’s Eric Kleefeld puts it:
… it becomes clear that Walker has been taking advantage of a key aspect of the state fundraising law for recalls – that until the election is officially triggered, the targeted incumbent can bring in unlimited donations.
Walker’s campaign staff claims that out of 21,443 donations, 16,406 were small contributions of $50 or less. However, WisPolitics.com did the math and concluded that, in spite of the Walker camp spin:
… 45 percent of the $4.5 million Walker collected during the two reporting periods filed yesterday came from those giving $25,000 or more. Most of his top donors also hailed from outside Wisconsin, according to a WisPolitics.com review.
Here’s the kicker, though, for those of us in Missouri: three of Walker’s biggest donors hail from our fair state and are, in fact, familiar names to those of us who follow the
careers beneficent activities of the state’s main political sugar daddies:
Walker also received $250,000 from David Humphreys of Tamko Building Products in Joplin, Missouri, and another $250,000 from Sarah Atkins of Tamko.
Stanley Herzog of Herzog Contracting in Missouri gave Walker $250,000.
That’s $750,000 going to support retrograde politics in Wisconsin. Of course these fine folks have a history of lavishly dispersing their largess around Missouri and elsewhere (see Herzog’s recent contributions here; Humhpreys’ here). One of the things that they buy in Missouri are politicians who are willing to make sure that these millionaires pay the same 6% flat tax rate that you, presumably, and I pay. If these individuals have money to throw at Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, maybe the rest of us should demand that they start pulling their weight here in Missouri as well.
There is a second issue here, though. While there is nothing wrong per se with people spending money to support politicians, there might be something wrong in permitting them to spend as much as they do in any single place. Just consider the $250,000 contributed to Scott Walker by Dave Humphreys, for instance. Since, many of the working people in Wisconsin who hope to recall Scott Walker might have to make an effort to scrape up $250 – or even $25 – to contribute to his eventual opponent in the recall, it does seem that, when it comes to buying government, Mr. Humphreys and his fellow members of the 1% have managed to create and perpetuate a system in which they can far too easily outbid the rest of us 99 percenters.
Robin Carnahan paints Roy Blunt as a corrupt politician, pointing out that he takes more money from lobbyists than any other member of Congress:
“There are 535 members of Congress. USA Today says Congressman Blunt has taken more campaign contributions from them than anybody else.”
She follows that accusation with this one:
“So when it comes to PAC contributions, he’s the number two recipient in the entire House of Representatives.”
She didn’t even bother outlining his crooked ties to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff or mentioning the hypocrisy of a family values man divorcing his wife to marry a tobacco lobbyist and then trying to sneak through a piece of legislation beneficial to one of his largest donors, Phillip Morris–legislation that would have benefited not only his new wife but his son Andrew, also a Phillip Morris lobbyist.
Sadly, though, we cannot assume, just because the Republican in a race whores after money, that his opponent is necessarily virginal. So let’s take a look, shall we?
The best place to get the skinny on both candidates is Open Secrets. That site offers a summary of the contributions they’ve received, lists their top contributors as well as the industries they get money from, provides bar graphs showing which sectors of the economy give them money, examines how much out of state cash they get, and of course peeks at their PAC contributions.
That last one is especially relevant, considering how Carnahan spotlights the fact that Blunt is number two in the House in PAC contributions. 27 percent of the money Blunt rakes in comes from PACs, while 14 percent of Carnahan’s contributions do. But there are PACs and then there are PACs.
Some are devoted to skewing legislation for their own profit. Think Tamko Building Products, Monsanto, Peabody Energy and Goldman Sachs, a few of the firms on Blunt’s top ten list.
But there are also labor PACs and what Open Secrets calls ideological PACs. Think NEA and Council for a Livable World, for example, or Emily’s List, which, as of the end of the first quarter, had given Carnahan $171,000. Her green bar is small–I’d estimate about 1/12th as high as Blunt’s. Still, there is money from Boeing, Anheuser Busch, and Monsanto, so she’s not entirely virginal. Blunt, on the other hand, is … what’s the male word for slutty? Wouldn’t that be the way to describe the man who “succeeded in tapping dozens of corporate chief executives around the country and also took $156,000 from hedge fund managers and other investment interests.”
Which reminds me. Open Secrets informs us that “historically, the financial sector has consistently been the biggest source of funds in U.S. elections. In 2002, financial interests gave $105 million to federal candidates.” Hmm. Does anything stand out like a sore middle finger on the bar graph below?
Tell me he wouldn’t have voted with every single Republican senator last week, if he’d had the chance, to block a bill that would have required hedge fund managers to pay taxes on a larger proportion of their income.
Compare Blunt’s middle finger with Carnahan’s:
Now that’s what a middle finger oughta look like. And the bar for “lawyers and lobbyists” consists mainly of lawyers, as you can tell by looking at the list of her top contributors.
Finally, consider that Carnahan gets twenty percent of her contributions from individuals giving less than $200. For Blunt, that figure is only five percent. So, plaid shirts and rented pickup trucks notwithstanding, Blunt is owned by big money not by the grassroots.
Robin Carnahan is just the reverse.
It appears that a few folks in the old media business make campaign contributions:
More journalists favored Nixon over Hulshof, contribution data shows
But Hulshof raised more money overall from wealthier media contributors
Conservatives often accuse the news media of favoring Democratic politicians and liberal views.
In the case of campaign contributions in Missouri’s 2008 gubernatorial race, support for the Democrat from journalists across the Show-Me state went to Nixon.
Campaign finance data analyzed by the News-Leader shows more individuals who worked for news organizations favored Democrat Jay Nixon over Republican Kenny Hulshof in the 2008 governor’s race, but Hulshof brought in more dollars…
There is this tidbit:
…Like most newspapers, full-time writers are barred from making campaign contributions, having political signs in their lawns or a candidate’s bumper sticker on their car, Stark said.
But the policy doesn’t apply to freelancers, which also was the case at the St. Louis and Columbia papers…
File that under: “It’s not the ‘real’ professionals.”
Here at Show Me Progress we proudly make campaign contributions to the candidates of our choice. We even volunteer for them, put up their yard signs, put up 4 x 8 signs, put their bumper stickers on our cars (and create our own), go door to door, man the phone banks, and vote. How’s that for transparency? We don’t wrap ourselves in the false robes of “impartiality”, because critical thinking shows us that not all opposing ideas are equal. Many are just plain stoopid.
On the other hand, if you don’t make a financial contribution you can always make an “in-kind” one that doesn’t go on the campaign finance reports.
Do you remember this press release from Governor Matt “baby” Blunt’s office back in 2007?:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Contact: Jessica Robinson
Blunt Official Seeks Investigation into Nixon’s Campaign Contributions from Ameren
JEFFERSON CITY-Ed Martin, Chief of Staff for Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, today asked the Chairman of the Public Service Commission to investigate political campaign contributions from Ameren UE that were solicited by Attorney General Jay Nixon after he announced a criminal investigation into the utility company.
“I am concerned about Steve Sullivan, general counsel of Ameren, who has behaved in a manner that is sufficiently troubling to me that I feel compelled to notify you and your fellow commissioners,” Martin wrote in a letter to Jeff Davis, Chairman of the Public Service Commission. “To be more exact, I am concerned that Mr. Sullivan has repeatedly acted with questionable integrity with his interactions with Attorney General Jay Nixon.”
In the letter, Martin details a conversation he had with Sullivan on September 11, 2006, during which it was revealed that the Attorney General and/or his campaign was directed to send campaign contributions to certain legislative committees that would be funneled to Nixon’s campaign accounts. Sullivan told the governor’s office that Nixon’s request for campaign funds occurred after he announced a criminal investigation into the company following the Taum Sauk disaster.
The Public Service Commission is considering a request by Ameren to raise utility rates for Missouri consumers. Mr. Martin said he was concerned that the contributions to Nixon during a criminal investigation, Ameren’s attempt to justify their request for a rate increase by adding a $10 million charge related to the Taum Sauk disaster that was later rescinded and Ameren’s unsatisfactory response to storms over the last year should be considered by the Commission as they examine the rate case.
“It is important for Missourians to know what has happened and how Ameren and its top people operate,” Martin wrote. “I strongly urge you to call Mr. Sullivan before you address his actions. He may have plausible explanations; if so, Missourians deserve to hear them. Without explanations, however, I am naturally suspect of any and all Ameren statements or submissions.”
And then there’s this:
A 48 hour report (pdf) filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission by the republican Majority Fund showing a $10,0000 contribution from the Ameren UE PAC immediately before the November General Election.
Are we going to hear anything about this particular contribution? Yeah, I thought so. That chirping you’re hearing that is coming from the lame duck’s office in Jefferson City is the sound of crickets.
The Missouri republican party and its inhabitants are seriously irony impaired.
There’s even more irony via the Missouri Ethics Commission:
Detailed Summary of Contributions And Loans Received
Committee: FRIENDS OF PETER KINDER
Report Date: 12/04/2008
Ameren UE PAC P.O. Box 780 Jefferson City, MO 65102- 10/28/2008 $5,000.00
And the republican candidate for Attorney General?
…”Gibbons also takes a minor swipe at Nixon for accepting campaign money from Ameren at the very time he was negotiating with the utility company over reparations for its Taum Sauk reservoir breach. Nixon later returned the money, and Gibbons’ acknowledges sometimes campaign operatives receive donations unknown to the candidates, but, he says, “I simply will tell my people don’t do that, period….”
Detailed Summary of Contributions And Loans Received
Committee: MISSOURIANS FOR GIBBONS
Report Date: 10/22/2008
Daniel Cole Saint Louis, MO Ameren 09/30/2008 $500.00
Martin Lyons Saint Louis, MO Ameren Corp 09/30/2008 $500.00
Richard Mark Collinsville, IL Ameren Corp 09/30/2008 $500.00
Michael Moehn Alton, IL Ameren Corp 09/30/2008 $500.00
Charles Naslund Saint Louis, MO Ameren Corp 09/30/2008 $1,000.00
Gary Rainwater Chesterfield, MO Ameren Corp 09/30/2008 $1,000.00
Jeffery Russell Chesterfield, MO Ameren UE 09/22/2008 $150.00
Thomas Voss Eureka, MO Ameren UE 09/30/2008 $1,000.00
Ameren UE PAC PO Box 780 Jefferson City, MO 65102 09/30/2008 $5,000.00
Governor Matt “baby” Blunt’s office hasn’t been complaining about this either, has he?
The Ethics Commission has defnitely ruled that over-limit campaign contributions will have to be returned. Sort of. Which is to say that private hearings will be conducted with candidates who want to claim that returning them would be a hardship. Such hearings might not conclude until February or March, and by then the legislature may well decide to pass another unlimited contribution law. (The Supreme Court ruled the last law unconstitutional because of the ban on raising funds while the legislature was in session. That part of the old law would be left out.)
In other words, as far as the Ethics Commission’s decision, it might all be moot. In fact, it is moot when you consider that getting around those bothersome campaign contribution limits is child’s play anyway. Instead of giving a lot of money in a lump sum, you distribute it to various campaign committees in several smaller sums. Or you do a Rex Sinquefield 100 PACs maneuver. Then, as Senate Majority Leader, Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, (pictured above) will tell you, you not only get to ignore the limits, you get to disguise where a candidate’s money actually comes from.
“I think that ought to send the message that really what you want is transparency. You want to know where the money comes from. And the more time and more places the money comes through, the harder it is to track its roots.”
Thus the solution, Shields will tell you, is to lift all limits. Sadly, even some democratic Senators agree with Shields, including Tim Green (Florissant), who introduced the original amendment, Chuck Graham (Columbia) and Chris Koster (Harrisonville).
But most Democrats would side with Senator Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), who says that any renewal of unlimited contributions legislation would likely be met with a filibuster from her party. Bray says the Republicans would have to move the previous question to pass the bill, referring to a parliamentary move that cuts off debate, one that used to be extremely rare but has been used increasingly by Republicans.
Whereas Shields argues for transparency, Bray argues that:
“The public thinks we’re all controlled by money, and we don’t need to do anything more to make that reality or perception,” Bray said. “The public strongly likes the idea of contribution limits. It has expressed that in votes in the past. And we should respect and not resort to indulging ourselves in unlimited contributions.”
Bray argues for legislation that would control the proliferation of PACs and political committees. Only a public campaign finance system would make more sense. But short of that, a Democrat needs to introduce legislation to control PACs.
Here’s an analogy: If people are finding embezzling too easy to get away with, Republicans think it would be wise to make the embezzlement easy to spot … and legal. They figure that if it’s easy to spot, the boss can fire the embezzler. Democrats want to make the embezzlement more difficult to achieve … and illegal.
There’s a no brainer.
If there’s one thing Republicans know, it’s that chutzpah pays. I swear to god, they’re missing the embarrassment gene. The most recent example is their attack on the Missouri Ethics Commission for failing to have a public discussion before ruling that candidates should return their over-the-limit campaign contributions unless they can prove that doing so would be a hardship.
“THE COMMISSION VIOLATED THE STATE’S SUNSHINE LAW!” Republicans screeched in voices that rose to a range above the hearing of bats, frothing and flailing at the injustice of it all–this just a couple of days after the governor’s office blithely defended deleting thousands of e-mails as a matter of course. The Sunshine Law they’re so eager to pounce on forbids doing that, and they know it too, because Matt Blunt signed the requirement into law.
There’s a word for that … starts with “H”, I’m pretty sure. “Hyp”? … It’ll come to me.
The Ethics Commission, horrified as they were to have the issue of returning over-the-limit campaign contributions dumped in their lap, made a misstep. So now they’re rescinding their letter notifying candidates of their decision, and they’re planning a public comments opportunity at their Oct. 4 meeting. They’re not convinced that their private meeting was illegal, but they’re cowed by the fury of the Republican reaction and the lawsuit that the GOP filed in a nanosecond:
“We find ourselves in a mess, in my opinion,” said commissioner Ken Legan, of Halfway, who made the motion essentially calling for a do-over. “We probably ought to rescind our actions of Sept. 11 — not that we made a mistake, but because of things that have happened.”
Everybody’s afraid of being a Republican target. The Supreme Court really ought to have ruled on this question, but, quailing at the concerted campaign to label them “activist judges”, they tossed the hot potato into the only available lap. And now that the members of the Ethics Commission have bloodied noses, they’re likely to be more malleable than they ought to about what constitutes “hardship”. (Let me just mention that finding an envelope and a stamp do not constitute “hardship”.)
Matt Blunt et. al. have gotten their bluff in, and they intend to swagger away with their swag.
Meanwhile, our gubernatorial candidate, Jay Nixon, as well as both Democratic Attorney General candidates–Margaret Donnelly and Jeff Harris–have said they are returning over-the-limit contributions.
Matt “baby” Blunt knows some people in Texas with lots of extra cash. The Missouri Ethics Commission shows the very large contributions made to Blunt’s 2008 campaign after January 1, 2007.
From the April quarterly report:
Bob Perry Houston, TX – Perry Homes 3/4/2007
Doylene Perry Houston, TX – Perry Homes 3/4/2007
From the July quarterly report:
Bob Perry Houston, TX – Perry Homes 6/11/2007
Doylene Perry Houston, TX – Perry Homes 6/11/2007
There’s a history of generous giving there:
Austin, TX: Bob Perry, a major Texas donor to the Republican Party, President Bush, Republican candidates, and conservative, pro-business political committees has contributed $200,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group attacking John Kerry’s Vietnam service.
The Houston-based Perry owns Perry Homes, one of the state’s largest homebuilders with reported revenues of $420 million in 2002. While an active political donor since the mid-1980’s, over the past three years Perry has eclipsed the giving of Texas’ elite money men and positioned himself as the largest single political donor in Texas giving candidates and committees more than $5.2 million since 2000
Perry worked with Karl Rove as early as 1986 when Perry served as Campaign Treasurer for Republican gubernatorial candidate William Clements and Rove served as a campaign consultant and fundraiser….
Hmmm, I wonder if karl rove is going to come work the 2008 election in Missouri?
The chief financial backer of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and its television ad challenging Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s military record is a wealthy Texas homebuilder known for his deep pockets and aversion to the limelight.
Bob J. Perry, 71, provided at least $100,000 to help start the veterans group at the urging of his friend John O’Neill….
….White House senior adviser Karl Rove told Fox television’s Brit Hume this week that he’s known Perry for 25 years, and he was one of the few wealthy Texans “willing to write checks to support Republican candidates…..”
There’s karl again.
…Perry, described as a “close friend of both Karl Rove and John E. O’Neill and “the single largest Texas donor to the Republican Party”, contributed 4.5 million dollars to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear campaign against then presidential candidate John F. Kerry…
That’s some serious money.
He seems to like Mitt!
The primary funder of an independent group that raised questions about the résumé of Sen. John F. Kerry during the 2004 presidential election has signed on to raise money for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s GOP presidential campaign.
Bob Perry, a Houston home builder, is named as a member of Romney’s Texas Leadership Team in an invite for a fundraising event in Dallas on March 26.
Perry has earned a reputation for his willingness to finance “527” groups. He gained notoriety for the $4.5 million he donated to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth…
2006 was a good year, but not so successful:
In the 2006 midterms Perry spent about $9 million on robo calls, mailers, and TV and radio ads attacking 20 Democratic House and Senate candidates. Highlights included Montana’s gay-baiting TV ad “Brokebank Democrats,” and his impish habit of putting the home phone telephone numbers of Democratic challengers in his ads.
Perry even took the trouble to funnel his meddling millions through three separate, generically-named “527” groups. But none of his sleight-of-hand amounted to much of anything this time around: In 14 of the 20 races, his GOP candidate lost. Four of his candidates won; they’re still puzzling over the ballots in two.
For about $2 million per win, Perry annoyed the hell out of hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Americans with prerecorded mudslinging phone calls, angry mailers and the like…
I wonder if karl has bought a house in Missouri?